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Rethinking Time

by David Brock on July 30th, 2019

While it’s trite, I have to start with some basic assumptions about time.

Time is virtually the only thing each of us face, that is fixed or finite. Regardless how much we might wish or try, we cannot make more time. We can only think of how we reallocate what we do with time and how we use the time that we have.

We seek to get the most out of each minute we have, wasting as little as possible (though “wasted time,” may actually be some of the most useful time, more later.)

There are a number of ways we cope with the finite nature of time.

  1. We try to get as much accomplished in each minute as we can. That is we try to improve our productivity. There are effectiveness and efficiency elements of this. But what may have taken us 30 minutes, we strive to do in 15 minutes, doubling our productivity, freeing up 15 minutes.
  2. We strive to use our time well, that is focus on the highest priorities, stopping things that we may consider to be bad uses of time–for example watching TV. This doesn’t give us more time, it just is a different way to allocate the time that we have.
  3. We may try to create “more time,” for example reducing the amount of time we dedicate to sleeping. Without getting into the health issues, this is only the reallocation of time.
  4. Some of us still try to multitask, that is we try to do multiple things during the same time. Hopefully now, we recognize that multitasking is very ineffective. We are not as productive as we could be, so while we fool ourselves into thinking we are accomplishing more in a given period of time, we are actually accomplishing less.
  5. We seek to eliminate “time drains.” This might be administrative work, certain types of meetings. This is really a version of prioritization or productivity (2 and 1 above).
  6. We seek to “schedule every minute,” thinking that enables us to use time well. Inevitably, this is flawed because we can’t anticipate all the things that arise making demands on our time. We, also, fail to recognize the value of unscheduled, free time. Just taking the time to think, reflect, decompress creates great value.

Many of these are good practices, some are terrible practices, in too many cases we are trying to ignore the finite nature of time.

Inevitably, time is about choice. If we choose to invest time in one space, then we are choosing not to invest time in doing something else. Stated differently, whenever we make the decision to do something, we are at the same moment, making the decision to stop or not do something else.

So what’s this mean to us?

As sales people, our job is to achieve our goals. While it must be obvious, we have to fit everything we do into the finite time we have. (Duggh, Dave)

But so much of the “advice” we get, seems to ignore this. For example, I just read some “expert” saying, “90% of your time should be spent on prospecting.”

Well, OK………… does that mean it should only take us 10% of our time to manage the rest of the buying cycle and everything else we must do to achieve our goals?

Pretty quickly, you can begin to see the silliness of most of the advice pundits offer. They tend to ignore the fact that we are allocating finite time across all elements of our jobs—but we have to do the whole job. Every hour we spend on prospecting means we can’t do something else.

What’s this mean?

First, we have to be as productive and effective in each thing that we must do. For example, when we prospect, we have to do it very well. As we manage deals within our pipelines, we have to do these very well. When we meet with customer, or even internally, we have to get the most out of the time we invest.

Second, we have to look for the leverage points. We have to think, “What can we do to reduce the amount of time we spend in managing opportunities in our pipelines?” “What can we do to reduce the amount of time we have to spend with customers?” “What can we do to reduce the amount of time we have to spend prospecting?” “What can we do to………”

As we begin looking at our “whole job,” we begin to understand how these things we think of as distinct parts, are highly interrelated. Understanding their interrelationships enable us to begin answering those questions differently.

For example, if we increase our win rates and/or the average deal values and/or sales/buying cycles, we find we have to find fewer prospects to maintain healthy pipelines and to achieve our goals.

How and where we invest our time will be very dynamic, we need to adjust based on those things that enable us to be most productive. But we can’t be simplistic in our thinking. We must always remember that when we choose to invest our time in one area, we are choosing to not to invest it in another.

We must balance what we do across all elements of our jobs. We have to do the whole job, we get more done by executing each part of the job as effectively and efficiently as we can.

Afterword: The Sales Execution Framework (SEF) is a tool to help sales people and managers understand these relationships and how to leverage each aspect to create the highest levels of performance. Just ask me for a copy.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample
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